Healthcare News

'What Older Women Want' - New Website For Doctors And Patients Based On CMAJ Study Findings

February 23, 2017

A Canadian study of older women's health needs and concerns published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in July 2005, and reported widely in the media, has sparked a new website directed at both patients and health practitioners: wowhealth

Known widely as 'WOW' or the 'What Older Women Want' study, conducted by Drs. Cara Tannenbaum, Nancy Mayo and Francine Ducharme, the study asked 5000 older women across Canada which of their health needs they felt were not being met or addressed adequately by their health practitioners.

Their answers surprised many in healthcare provision, since the key topics the women highlighted were not concerned so much with critical care concerns or disease treatment, but primary care and disease prevention.

Among the top unmet concerns Canadian senior women mentioned were: screening and treating urinary incontinence; counselling about memory loss (or perceived memory loss); and exercise strategies to address falls and functional decline.

"Women were very satisfied with the care they were receiving to treat their blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and stroke, but emphasized gaps in care surrounding more 'taboo' issues, such as discussing urine or memory loss," says Dr. Tannenbaum, a Geriatrician at the Institut universitaire de gériatre de Montréal, and lead author of the WOW study. "It may be that women are uncomfortable talking about these issues with their physicians because it is embasrassing, because they believe it is a part of normal aging or because they are unaware that treatments exist."

In order to address this gap in primary health provision and give older women what they want, Dr. Tannenbaum teamed up with the Canadian Women's Health Network and the Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal to create the WOW website: wowhealth

The website contains a portal for health consumers that provides health information on the three unmet health needs of older Canadian women: urinary incontinence, memory loss and exercise. The information is clear, straight-forward and easy-to-read, with engaging illustrations and diagrams. The focus is on prevention, with tips on diet, lifestyle changes and exercise; treatment options are also provided.

But the onus is not left only up to older women to seek and address their own health needs. The WOW website also has a portal for health practitioners, outlining the kinds of questions that practitioners should be asking their older female patients routinely, and the ways in which they can provide prevention and improvement strategies to their patients for urinary incontinence, memory loss, as well as the particular exercise needs of older women.

"When asked, clinicians admitted that they often do not pursue these issues because there is rarely enough time during the medical visit and they often get the impression that their patients are reluctant to talk about it," states Dr. Tannenbaum. "That is why it is so important that we get the message out that something like urinary incontinence can be effectively treated in up to 75% of patients with simple behavioural techniques, and that clinicians should routinely screen for it."

The WOW website was funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research Knowledge-to-Action fund.

"The goal with the WOW website was to find an effective means to translate the research we have done on older women's health concerns into tangible results. We want women to be able to articulate their needs and clinicians to learn what questions they ought to be asking," Dr. Tannenbaum adds.

The WOW website is the essential first step to make sure that older women's unmet health needs and concerns are present in health care provision, and communicated in ways that both senior women and their health practitioners can understand.

To visit the What Older Women Want website for health consumers and practitioners, visit: wowhealth

For full study details on the What Older Women Want study, visit this link.